The Presence Lab: The Importance of Equanimity
Exploring Everything. Mindfully.
I had a massive aversion to spaghetti as a child. My mom was a fabulous cook; that was not the problem I just didn’t like the texture of it, the smell of it, the way it made me feel. Nothing. I was not having it. I sometimes even got a rash when I ate it.
My mom had some theories about why there was all this commotion around basic spaghetti, but only after learning to meditate and observing my body and mind do I see that whatever the actual root of my spaghetti dislike was, the dislike itself fuelled further dislike. I have learned through meditation practice that the human mind has a difficult time being in the present moment and as a result, it is incredibly "sticky". What I mean is that when we are actually in the present moment. Not thinking about the future or the past we are absorbed in our senses. You can not think in this state of absorption. You are fully here. All sorts of things happen in the present moment, in particular when we first make efforts at this consciously. The human mind is immensely creative at avoiding these kinds of challenging experiences so it finds any reason to get out of the present as it means seeing reality as it is not as we would like it to be. The first line of defense in this avoidance is: " I don't have time for this" or " this is not for me" or "I am not that kind of person". Then the next line of defense is " I would but I can't because of my history or the situation I am in". After this it can be anything, " the environment is not to my liking", " I didn't wear comfortable enough clothes today", " I need to bathe first", " I am feeling too sad right now", " I am feeling too happy right now", " I am too anxious". The mind can create a visual distraction in meditation as well that can also pull you out of meditation in panic or disorientation. There is almost nothing your ego-mind will not stop in doing, to avoid being present. This is essentially what I mean by sticky. To unstick our mind from ego we have to learn to let go of our likes and dislikes because the ego part of us, that is, the part of us that we think " we are" is creating a story around what it likes and dislikes and these may not be serving your expansion.
Meditation teaches equanimity to help with this sticky aspect of the mind. Equanimity is staying calm, balanced, compassionate, and non-reactive in the face of any experience. When we do not jump to disassociate from experiences we dislike in our mind and physiology and associate with ones we like we learn a variety of things over time. We learn first that by observing all phenomena of the mind and physiology in this mindful equanimous way there is more room around the experience than we initially thought. Next, we learn that the thing we thought was one solid experience is impermanent and fluid, the sadness is transforming into happiness and the happiness back into sadness. Essentially every experience no matter how " negative we thought it was" when we sit with it will be the soil that gives birth to another experience that we can not ever predict. Next, we see that alongside this impermanence is a multiplicity of experiences happening simultaneously. The singular experience of pain in your knee given time and focus can be observed more accurately as a mix of sensations including thermal changes, sensations of pressure, vibration sensations, tension, emotion, and even space between different sensations. When we stop grasping and reacting to things we like or dislike the mind will naturally calm itself down. It will find its equilibrium and unwind itself.
When we begin to allow the spectrum of experiences into us, we may notice that we were never separate from them. That in fact, we have been putting boundaries against something that we like, or some skill or something that brings us joy. Additionally, as we reduce our attachment to naming likes and dislikes, we may start to see the commonality and union between all life and we may even begin to release some of our grip on our importance, identity, and ego.
Lastly, do not get trapped in finding the root cause of something. The root of your trauma, the root of your "stuckness" in your life. That will come naturally by doing inner work but not by trying to think your way into it by asking: why? why? why? If you are looking for an answer it may never come but if you are looking for a solution to the challenge of feeling stuck and struggling within your life your "likes" and "dislike" may provide some clues to where you may want to start, then let the why answer itself.